Ethical Wisdom: What Makes Us Good (Hardcover)

What Makes Us Good

By Mark Matousek

Doubleday, 9780385527897, 272pp.

Publication Date: May 24, 2011



Since the days of the first primitive tribes, we have tried to determine why one man is good and another evil. Mark Matousek arrives at the answer in Ethical Wisdom.

Contrary to what we've been taught in our reason-obsessed culture, emotions are the bedrock of ethical life; without them, human beings cannot be empathic, moral, or good.

But how do we make the judgment call between self-interest and caring for others? What does being good really mean? Which parts of morality are biological, which ethical? When should instinct be trusted and when does it lead us into trouble? How can we know ourselves to be good amidst the hypocrisy, fears, and sabotaging appetites that pervade our two-sided natures?

Drawing on the latest scientific research and interviews with social scientists, spiritual leaders, ex-cons, altruists, and philosophers, Matousek examines morality from a scientific, sociological, and anthropological standpoint. Each chapter features a series of questions, readings, interviews, parables, and anecdotes that zoom in on a particular niche of moral inquiry, making this book both utilitarian and fun.

Ethical Wisdom is an insightful and important book for readers crisscrossing their own murky moral terrain.

About the Author

MARK MATOUSEK is the author of two bestselling memoirs, "Sex Death Enlightenment" and "The Boy He Left Behind." A contributing editor for "O, The Oprah Magazine," he was a senior editor at "Interview" and has written for numerous publications, including "The""New Yorker," the "New York Times Magazine," "Harper's Bazaar," "Details," and "AARP" magazine. Matousek lives in New York City.

Praise For Ethical Wisdom: What Makes Us Good


“Mark Matousek guides us through a revolution in ethical science with deft, thought-provoking style. Ethical Wisdom is a riveting, fun, and insightful tour of life’s meaning and purpose, essential reading for anyone drawn to the query, ‘How ought we to live?’”
Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence
“Mark Matousek has done some magic: he has written an informed, intelligent, humorous, insightful, and juicy book on ethics.  He covers a broad field and is up-to-date and thorough.  You’ll enjoy this book and maybe become a better person because of it.”
­—Thomas Moore, author of Care of the Soul
“This broad-ranging book is remarkable for its emotional intensity, and for its message of redemption; it is a delineation of hope itself.”
Andrew Solomon, author of The Noonday Demon
Ethical Wisdom is a beautiful work.  Bringing together the best of today's scientific research with a plainspoken forthrightness, Ethical Wsdom does what few books of this type can do: it inspires.”                             
Mark Epstein, M.D., author of Thoughts without a Thinker
Ethical Wisdom is a unique delight—a fascinating, enlightening, and adventurous romp through the territories of philosophy, psychology, science, and spirituality. Mark Matousek has pulled off a most difficult task: he has written an  intellectually rigorous and expansive book that is also beautiful and funny and inspiring.”
Elizabeth Lesser, co-founder of Omega Institute and author of Broken Open
“This book springs from the latest research on biology [and] some of the oldest human wisdom. Both are interesting, and together they are potent.”
Bill McKibben, author of Eaarth
“I don't know how he has done it, but Mark Matousek has written a book about being good without being moralistic or judgmental.  Ethical Wisdom is a call to our higher selves.  Read it!”
Eve Ensler, author of The Vagina Monologues  
Ethical Wisdom provides tremendous insight into our collective and individual psyches.  Like GPS for the soul, it is a necessary guide for human evolution, and survival, in the 21st century.”
­­—Peter Buffett, founder of the NoVo Foundation and author of Life is What You Make It 

“As a species, we have not found a healthy way to harness our basic goodness and avoid the seeds of human suffering.  The book you have in your hands will show you why this is so.  Engaging, thought provoking, and enlightening … this book acts as an insider’s guide to what makes us tick, and gently prompts us to look in the mirror and at our place in the great pond of life. A must read for anyone interested in making the world a better place.”
John P. Forsyth, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology at the University at Albany, SUNY and author of Your Life on Purpose 
"Insightful and informative."
Library Journal